Jo was bored! Bored and pissed off, not a good combination at all for her or anyone who bumped into her. She had been part of the Blackfriars order for a few months now and, following a rather lengthy induction and indoctrination programme, she had been given an area of responsibility to manage. It was important stuff but still she was bored. The work wasn’t hard to do – far from it, her tasks were a breeze. But this, added to the lack of opportunity to hurt people, irked Jo . She liked hurting people . She was good at it and considered it to be her defining feature. While working with the Bubblettes, her job description included busting heads and breaking legs. She knew all about pressure and just how much would make someone snap (literally). But here within the Gallery things were different. Now the closest she could get to enforcing was bossing about acolytes, the grey robe-wearing geeks that punched code for the Blackfriars . It was hardly the same as the good old days . What made her situation worse was the Blackfriars dress code . She was beginning to hate the shapeless black robe that they insisted she wore, it played merry hell with her allergies. This was compounded by the lack of opportunity to strip off and prance around in the nip. All considered Jo was thoroughly miserable.
The black robes made her skin feel like it was on fire. The urge to itch was always there no matter how many times she applied the ointments or took the special baths . Her allergies to manmade and natural fibres resulted in her wanting to scream, rip her rope off and run around in her birthday suit. So what was stopping her from doing just that? Well that was the odd thing, nothing was stopping her! Well, apart from Peter having asked her not to! Ahhhh Peter! Jo’s world went a little warm and fuzzy when she thought about Peter. Jo had spent years menacing and terrorising, she had learnt various ways of inflicting pain and built up quite a name for herself this way, but Peter? Sweet unassuming Peter, how did he manage to instil such a level of terror in those around him? She never saw him get angry or even lash out and pummel someone for looking at him funny! No, Peter used words as weapons, odd, unusual words like ‘Key Performance Indicators’ ‘Alternate Business Models’ and ‘Future Planning Meetings’. Words like these turned those around him from intelligent, well mannered members of the order into gibbering wrecks who would then run around like headless chickens. She wasn’t sure how he did it! Maybe it wasn’t what he said and it was all about the way he said it but she was very impressed with the results achieved!
Daydreaming now, Jo recalled that fateful meeting with Peter during her first few weeks in the Gallery.
‘Keep your bloody clothes on! I’m trying to run a business here.’
His words had a massive effect on Jo . Previously, if anyone had spoken to Jo like that certain hardwired responses from her brain would have kicked in, responses like ‘how dare you talk to me like that! Now I’m gonna hurt you’ or ‘Fuck you! I’ll do what I want to! And now I want to hurt you’ followed by a puddle of blood on the floor and body of regret in a hospital bed somewhere. But Peter’s words had slipped past these and triggered a new response ‘Yes Boss, whatever you say Boss!’ So now Jo wore the hot and itchy Blackfriars robe at all times. Her daydreaming wandered… what did Peter look like under that shapeless robe of his? Scenarios began to form in Jo’s head, she was just passing his office and he asked her in, to help him with some ‘blue sky thinking’ or similar… her allergy flared breaking her reverie and bringing her back to reality seconds before this episode needed a mature audience only rating! “Ahhhh Peter”, she thought as she scratched.
Meanwhile, in an office not so far away…
Peter was concerned. Yet another major contributor to the Bubble had vanished. Clearly the ‘Old Man’ and his erstwhile ‘assistant’ were still at large. They were turning from a minor distraction to a bothersome unwanted variable in the business plan that Peter had developed for Red Bubble. The sign on his office door quite clearly stated ‘I’m the bus driver’ as such he would not tolerate people interfering with the route he had decided on, after all it was his bus! Still what sort of a bus driver would he be if he didn’t have a plan or two up his sleeve for situations where passengers start behaving badly or other drivers cut him up? He jabbed the intercom button on the desk. ‘Inform Brother Pilgrim that I will be on a conference call for the next three zero minutes. Then call Joanne to my office, and when she asks tell her that I want her dressed!’ he didn’t wait for a response before switching off the intercom and sitting back in his high backed leather chair. ‘Time to act, indeed’ he whispered to nobody in particular.
Cue fade out and dramatic music… Advertisement break.
Hi there! To those of you who don’t know me, I’m Andrew Walker, star of such Red Bubble blockbusters as Soap Bubble Episode 13 ‘The Bubblettes Strike Back’. I’m here on behalf of Red Bubble Rescue to ask you to look into your hearts and dig deep in your pockets. Today around us in Red Bubble there are good artists who have fallen on hard times. Take a look at these poor ragamuffins. First we have Paul . He used to be well looked after graphic designer but recently has fallen on hard times. He can’t afford clothes anymore and has been forced to model for little old ladies to scrape a living. Second we have Jessica , the once the proud owner of an award winning apartment block Tremp Towers. Following a gypsy curse she is now forced to live in a dilapidated wreck of a squat and bathes fully clothed , poor soul.
Screen fades to a couple of smiling photographers running in slow motion through a field towards a sunset.
Together we can help them and a lot of other artists like them too. Here at ‘Red Bubble Rescue’ we never put an artist down, instead we provide them a safe environment to live out their days. To maintain this, though, we need your help! Please donate five Red Bubble Dollars today to sponsor an artist. They, in turn will send you a picture twice a year and our care staff will provide you with a monthly newsletter on how your sponsored artist is managing at our high security facility. Thank you for your time and donations. Now back to the show….
Screen fades to show a toll free phone number.
Break over, dramatic music plays and we’re back!
Jo smoothed down the black robes, she wished it was figure hugging or with a split to allow an occasional glimpse of leg, but alas it was a shapeless heavy black robe. A final deep breath and she prepared to knock on the heavy wooden door with the jovial sign about the bus driver. The door swung open before she had knocked and from within she heard Peter “Ahhh Joanne, thank you for gracing me with your very pretty presence. Do come in, and close the door behind you.” He had said pretty! He thought she was pretty!! Her head swam, blood roared in her ears and her skin flushed. In front of the large desk that Peter sat behind was a solitary high backed wooden chair. It looked uncomfortable. What it didn’t look was out of place in this cold room unlike the vast executive chair that Peter sat, he motioned to the chair while continuing to sift through various papers on his desk. Jo felt awkward, like a kid back in school. Not only did the chair look uncomfortable it was uncomfortable, and Peter seemed to have forgotten about her sitting here!
Time passed. Minutes felt like hours as she sat there. Eventually Jo couldn’t take it any more, she cleared her throat and sheepishly asked ”You wanted a word with me boss?”
Peter looked up from his papers and smiled “Ahhh. Yes, Joanne” he shuffled some more paper and came up with a single sheet. It seemed to have a lot of writing on it in a crimson ink. “Joanne, according to my records here you have now been with the order for six months. How are you finding it, dear?” his voice was velvet. He called her dear! He cared! He had feelings for her! should she tell him how she felt?
“I am enjoying my time here very much, boss” was all that she could nervously manage.
“Well six months is a short amount of time within the order Joanne . I would normally wait until you had been here at least a year before undertaking a performance review. However, certain issues have been brought to my attention concerning your, ahhhh youthful exuberance.” He looked up from the paper, his eyes were soulless and hard while his voice sounded like honey. The combination threw Jo, something was wrong! What the hell was a performance review? It didn’t sound like he was going to be declare his love for her like she had been hoping.
“Issues, boss?” she asked.
“The Infirmary has informed me of 186 separate cases that have been attributable to your use of unnecessary violence towards the more junior members of the order! The infirmary is requesting an increase in staff to help them cope. Similarly, data processing and packaging show a sizeable dip in their performance figures which correlate to lost man hours, the team leaders are attributing this to your behaviour towards their staff. I also have a request from the head of the Acolytes requesting that we fit you with… what did he write… ah a restraining collar and leash, to protect his boys.”
Jo blinked slowly and her brain took a while for the information to sink in! these weren’t issues these were complaints! Complaints against her! She clenched her fists tightly the anger racing through her veins. They were gonna pay, all those whiney shits who had complained about her! When she got out of here she was going to give them something worth complaining about. She kept her head down as Peter continued.
“Joanne, I am very disappointed in this type of behaviour. I really did expect better out of you! After all I chose you personally, I like you, your spirit, your fire your… passion.”
The anger drained as though the plug had just been pulled. He did like her, HE LIKED HER! And she had let him down… personally! She looked up and there he was, looking at her sternly, disappointment clearly showing on his face. Tears pricked her eyes and her chin wobbled, this was horrible, she had let him down! She was a disappointment, a failure.
“I… I… I am really sorry sir” she muttered trying to hold back the tears.
Peter continued, his voice losing the honey and filling with steel. “Sorry? Sorry isn’t good enough Joanne! I have a business to run here and right now you’re a hindrance not an asset. I can’t have you running amok upsetting the staff and affecting out business delivery capabilities.” He let this sink in, the once feisty Bubblette enforcer seemed to shrink in front of him, the conditioning had clearly worked. Honey was added back into his voice as he continued “Now, I should release you from the order because of this! But I am a fair man, Joanne, and I am prepared to give you a second chance, an opportunity to show me that you are an asset to me.” The lifeline thrown, he waited for Jo to grab for it, he did not have to wait long.
“Anything, Boss, anything! I won’t let you down again!” her face filled with hope.
Peter slid a thin envelope across the desk to her, “The task is somewhat unusual and will require your full attention Joanne. Please read this at your leisure.”
She snatched the envelope and ripped it open, eager to be back in Peter’s good books. He continued to speak as she skimmed though the executive summary pinned to the front of the thin booklet. “You will be aware, I am sure, of at least one of the targets detailed. As the document says I want them both removed from Red Bubble by any means available to you. If you achieve the objective, Joanne, I see big things for you within the Order, possibly a role as my personal assistant?”
Christmas had come early for Jo, an opportunity to show Peter that she was his best asset. Not only that but this task allowed her to show off her best skills! This was more like it. “Thank you Sir, I won’t let you down!” She stood up clutching the envelope and headed for the door. Just before she was through it and out of his office, Peter called after her, “One last thing Joanne.” She paused, the door knob icy cold in her hand, “If you fail. Don’t come back.” And with that he went back to reading through the papers on his desk. Jo left the room, elated but also terrified, so much was at stake she needed to prepare.
Peter sat back in the big chair and chuckled, from a shadowy alcove at the side of the room a figure appeared moving out of the dark to stand at the side of the desk.
“Was that absolutely necessary?” Pilgrim asked.
“Of course” replied Peter “People Management chapter 4 – Staff Motivation. Besides, it adds Drama!”
From above the gallery lightning arced and thunder peeled .
“Ah yes, Drama!” replied Pilgrim…
Peter, head of the Blackfriars decides it’s time to act. It’s time to release his secret weapon! send for Jo ‘No Clothes’ . But how does the head of the Bubble manage his staff, what are his motivation secrets? and why does miss O’Brien keep swooning? read on to find out more…
The story has lots of links to pretty pictures that add to the work.